I was recently hiking in New Mexico through a couple of massive canyons. As I was walking the giant walls of rock that towered over me reminded me of some of the defensive lineman in the NFL. They were massive, strong, and seemingly immovable objects. It seemed impossible that anything could have carved its way through such a barricade. But then I looked down further into the canyon and saw my answer. A river had snaked its way through and, over the course of millions of years, exploited gaps in the line of rock in order to create enough space for the river to rush through. And so an immovable object was moved by an unstoppable force. An offensive line’s job is to be that unstoppable force of water, punching their way through the gaps and eroding the defenses ability to stop the oncoming rush of the running backs(over quarters instead of eons). And the Lions are in a great position to turn NFL defenses into the Grand Canyon with a cast of characters up front that make them as unstoppable as the mighty Colorado.
Bringing Dan Campbell’s dreams of a hard nosed, run first, kneecap biting offense that can just physically abuse opposing defenses will most certainly involve an effective and tough offensive line. Luckily for the lions they already have a great offensive line in place. The stats back it up. In fact PFF ranked the lions as the 13th best oline last year and going into 2022 their predicted spot has risen to number 3-behind only the Eagles and the Browns. They also hold some great individual talents like Frank Ragnow and Penei Sewell, both of whom were rated 86.7 and 77.0 respectively by PFF. This along with another great talent in Taylor Decker and the expected starting guards of Johan Jackson and Halapoulivaati Vaitai result in a potentially great front 5 that could catapult a dormant lions offense to new heights. Such a heavy investment into the Oline, in both high draft picks(the unit consists of 3 1st rounders) and salary, is reflective of a Dan Campbell unit that was a run first team that relied on the ability of DeAndre Swift and Jamal Williams to run through the defense and make moves in the open field(The Lions ranked 18th in rushing yards per game and). Swift and Williams would certainly benefit from more space to run through. In addition Jared Goff would benefit enormously from more time in the pocket. As anyone who has watched Goff for an extended period of time can attest to, he is not a very effective scrambler or rushing quarterback. He really needs a clean pocket, more so than more mobile QBs. When Goff did have that stability up front in LA he flourished. Surely if the big men up front for the lions can succeed this year then team success is sure to follow. Couple this with a good wide receiver addition in DJ Chark, a newly established Amon Ra St. Brown, the highly anticipated arrival of Jameson Williams, and Detroit’s Offense is looking like it could improve significantly in 2022.
It’s only a matter of time before the duo of DeAndre Swift and Jamal Williams start to look like the unstoppable force that we all know them to be and only a matter of time for Jared Goff to start dazzling in the passing game alongside his receivers. Before we know it the Lions will be carving up and breaking down NFL defense. This offensive tide could be the headwaters of the Lions long awaited return to playoff football. Maybe this is all just me drinking a river of Honolulu blue kool-aid. But I can’t help it, it just tastes too damn good.